We talked to Kertész Éva Annamária & Tóth Gábor of Adalékmentesen about the idea of the POLCZ product and they had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kertész Éva Annamária: Fortunately, we are fine, and our family and co-workers as well. No one seems to have caught this virus yet; hopefully, it will stay that way.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Adalékmentesen.
Tóth Gábor: We are the founders of this company. The idea of the POLCZ product was born on a busy day. We were at home, and we had to hurry to a meeting, but our fridge was empty. Suddenly I discovered a jar with my mother’s vegetable ragout on the shelf. So we just warmed it up, and we had a healthy, delicious and warm lunch. After this, we started to look for healthy ready-to-eat meal options with a long shelf life in the shops. We were surprised that we didn’t find anything, except not so delicious and not so healthy canned foods. So we decided to create recipes for meals without preservatives, added sugar, additives and dairy products. Our thought was that other people are also looking for a solution to this problem.
How does Adalékmentesen innovate?
Kertész Éva Annamária: We provide a solution to a complex problem. Many people suffer from a food allergy or have diabetes. There is a growing number of health-conscious people who have no option for healthy, ready-to-eat meals. Most people live a busy lifestyle, and they don’t have time to cook every day, and most of the ready-to-eat meals have short expiration dates and need to be refrigerated. It means they are not a good backup meal options. So for all of these problems, we offer POLCZ, ready-to-eat meals with a long shelf-life (1 year) that are free from preservatives, additives, eggs, dairy products, and added sugars. You can keep them at home or work, on a shelf, or even in a bag. But most importantly, our products no need to refrigerate.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Tóth Gábor: As we sell ready-to-eat meals with a long shelf-life, COVID didn’t necessarily have a negative impact on our business. When the first news appeared about the virus in Hungary, people started to stock up on non-perishable foods, including our ready to eat meals. So in March, our sales numbers hit a record high. What is even more positive is that not only the number of online orders jumped suddenly, but also the orders of reseller partners. In this period many new customers got to know our delicious products.
But we can already see one of the long term negative effects of COVID-19, which is the rising costs of ingredients. Also, we were in the middle of building our own factory when the virus appeared in Hungary. Unfortunately, the construction work was significantly hindered by the epidemic situation. We couldn’t travel to international fairs to search for and test production machines.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kertész Éva Annamária: Fortunately, our company is able to grow during Covid-19. So we didn’t have to make hard decisions, like terminating contracts. Moreover, in the first wave of panic-shopping and since then we can give jobs to people who have lost their previous position in another company. The most difficult thing for us to process is that we should have our own food factory according to our original plans since the summer of 2020. But we had to delay the start by a year cause of Covid-19.
It’s a great lesson for us that it’s possible to build up a startup company that is able to operate from its own revenues from the very beginning. We are currently not forced to raise capital, as we have been operating profitably for the second year in a row. As we have heard, many startups have found themselves in a difficult situation because investment deals stopped with the epidemic situation.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Tóth Gábor: If someone would like to make serious achievements in the business world, she/he should know that she/he will have to face countless stressful situations. But at the end of the day, when you can see the results, you feel that it is all worth it. For us, most of the time, everything happened so fast that we realized only afterwards how serious the situation we were in.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kertész Éva Annamária: Our product has many good features, like no need to refrigerate them or the way we make them: without added sugar, additives, eggs, preservatives and dairy. We have no information about any similar meals which has all those complex advantages that POLCZ have. You can buy ready-to-eat meals in the shops, but some of them you have to keep in the fridge, and others contain sugar and preservatives.
We always try to create recipes like you would make a dish at home. So when you open a jar of POLCZ, You will smell and taste carefully selected and prepared homemade meals.
Your final thoughts?
Tóth Gábor: Even though the year 2020 turned out quite strangely, we still think there are a number of great things that we are very grateful for.
For the year 2020, it is a big success for us that our brand is prosperous in Hungary not only among the customers but also the profession. This year we won 3 professional awards. Our newest meal, the ’Bolognese beef ragu’ won at the Competiton of Additive-Free products. Then ’Smoky pork & pinto bean stew’ won the first prize in a category of ready-to-eat meals. This was a ’blind test of those food brands which can be found in retail chains.
This made us one of the test winner company of 2020.
At the end of the year, our product family won the Hungarian Brands award, which is a huge honor for us.
After our success in Hungary, our plan for 2021 is to enter foreign markets.